Duke researcher has no regrets about protest, arrest

Posted June 16, 2010 5:09 p.m. EDT
Updated July 6, 2010 8:02 a.m. EDT

— Duke University research scholar Tim Tyson said Wednesday his arrest during a Wake County Board of Education meeting Tuesday night was for the greater good.

Tyson was one of four people charged with second-degree trespassing after they interrupted the board's meeting, locked arms and sang songs.

Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, Nancy Petty, a pastor at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh and Mary Dobbin Williams, a Wake County parent staged what Barber called a "non-violent conscientious objection," disrupting the meeting for about an hour to draw attention to a move by the board they believe will serve to re-segregate Wake County schools.

Tyson said his father, a Methodist preacher, taught him about standing up for his beliefs in the face of adversity. Those lessons remain deeply rooted in his beliefs.

“If the anti-diversity coalition of the school board thinks I’m a pain in the neck wait ‘till they meet my mama who taught fourth grade for 40 years and knows what to do with people who don’t do their homework,” Tyson said.

Tyson is the author of a book about racial tension in his childhood home of Oxford which later became the film “Blood Done Sign My Name.”

The book details the 1970 murder of 23-year-old black Vietnam War veteran Henry Murrow. When a jury acquitted a prominent white businessman and his grown sons of Murrow's death, violence followed.

To direct that anger peacefully, a young teacher, Ben Chavis, organized thousands along a three-day, 50-mile protest march to the state Capitol in Raleigh. Tyson's father worked to get his congregation to accept integration.

Tyson said that although his father's role is pivotal to the story, his dad was one person among many trying to do what was right.

Despite his arrest Tuesday night, Tyson said he would do it again and again until the school board and the public come to grips with what he is convinced is at risk, a re-segregation of Wake County public schools.

“We did what we did last night to protect the public schools, acting in the spirit of love and we are responsible to that,” he said.